Fallen oak shuts down power in part of Belmont

BELMONT — About 70 residents along Horne Road lost power yesterday when a giant oak tree split in two and half of it landed across the road, lying over both electrical and cable lines.

Eversource media spokesman Martin Murray said the tree fell mid-afternoon and the company had dispatched a repair unit to the area.

Belmont Fire Lt. Thomas Murphy said firefighters responded and found a substantial part of the tree across Horne Road near the intersection of Brook Hollow Road and tangled in the wires.

He said firefighters used two units to block either side of the road because the tree was blocking the road near a sharp turn and motorists were coming around the corner and nearly hitting it.

He said Eversource crews arrived around 4 p.m. and were bringing in a tree removal crew to take down the rest of the tree.

As of 5:30 p.m. Eversource was reporting the same 70 homes as being without power.

Tilton police officer won't be charged with crime relating to sale of stolen gift card

TILTON — The Grafton County Attorney confirmed yesterday that no criminal indictments will be sought against Tilton Police Officer Mathew Dawson or his relative Theodore Dawson in a case involving a stolen gift card.

County Attorney Lara Saffo said that "based on the information they have to date, at this time there will be no criminal charges."

Dawson and his relative had been implicated in the use of a Lowe's Home Improvement gift card stolen from a Tilton resident by Richard Miner, who was working as an assistant to a contractor who was remodeling the victim's home.

Miner gave the card to Richard McNeil who sold it to Theodore Dawson for $600.

Both Miner and McNeil have pleaded guilty in the Belknap County Superior Court to their roles in the gift card theft. They have both been ordered to pay $2,000 restitution to the victim.

After Mat Dawson admitted he knew about the card but not that it was stolen, his role in the theft and use was investigated by the Merrimack County Sheriff's Department. During the investigation he was placed on paid administrative leave. After about six months he returned to active duty but was demoted from detective corporal to patrol officer.

It is not known if Dawson will petition the town for full reinstatement of his rank and back compensation.

Tilton Selectman's Chair Pat Consentino said she was told three days ago about the Grafton County Attorney's decision. She declined to comment further.

Heavy-handed state police & 'nothing to do' to top MW complaint list

LACONIA — When the city's Special Events/Licensing Board invited comment on the 92nd running of Motorcycle Week yesterday several speakers said that the intimidating presence of state police, dearth of popular activities and spare mix of vendors have diminished attendance at the rally.

Michelle Watson, who owns and operates the Looney Bin restaurant and bar, said that she made a list of "complaints" she heard from her patrons, which included "there are too many cops," "not enough to do," and "too many T-shirt vendors." One person told her, "it's not meant to be a family event. There are 51 other weeks for that." She conceded that her business did well during the rally, but added "it was not what it should be" and, echoing her customer, remarked "after 10 o'clock the streets rolled up and it got quieter."

Stanley White complained of "muffler stops, high (handle) bar stops and taillight stops" by the state police and asked what they were charged with doing during the rally. "Something has to be done before we lose it," he warned, "and we're on the way to losing it."

White was echoed by Jay Lewis, a persistent critic of the rally, who said "we no longer have Bike Week up here. There are cops at every bar," he continued. Bikers are not bums. You people are running people off."

Bob Wilson of the Laconia Roadhouse at Faro's Italian Grille, said that the property owners who rent space to vendors should seek more diversity and make better use of their property.

Craig Finnerty of CFO Cycles, a service shop in Meredith, questioned the prohibition of so-called "burnt out pits," where bikers spin their rear wheels raising billows of smoke and making lots of noise. He described the rally as "tame," claiming that attendance is largely confined to the New England states and eastern Canada. "The stigma of the whole event is really poor."

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said he has heard that the rally "is not what it used to be." The mission of the association, he explained, has always been to make Motorcycle Week a statewide event" and "to get as many people here as we can is our job."

"The competition is fierce," St. Clair stressed, noting that there are some 650 motorcycle events, including many major rallies, across the country each year. He acknowledged there are fewer "motorcycle events" at the rally, particularly since Gunstock Mountain Resort ceased hosting the Wednesday hill climb competition. He also noted that both the other major rallies — Sturgis in South Dakota and Daytona in Florida — offered more entertainment venues. And he shared misgivings about the conduct of the state police, suggesting they would be more effectively deployed patrolling those roads where accidents are most likely to occur than at The Weirs rather than writing easy-picking tickets in congested areas.

Jennifer Anderson, director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, stressed that the association serves as the marketing arm and information center of the rally. "We do not own any property," she said. "We have no authority over anything. To get people to come to New Hampshire, to the Lakes Region for the rally," she continued, "that is our job." She said that the association is "only as strong as the people supporting us. Our hands are tied, especially when it comes to the things most people complain about.'

Lakes Region planners hear what warmer temps doing to Experimental Forest

MEREDITH — "The climate is changing and we can read the signature of change in our own backyard," said Lindsey Rustad, an ecologist with the United States Forest Service who studies the effects of rising temperatures on the northern forest at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in Woodstock.

As the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Lakes Region Planning Commission on Monday night, Rustad tackled what she called the "the conundrum of climate" , or "what we know, don't know and need to know" from both a global and local perspective. She began by tracking the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1800, which after reaching unprecedented levels have continued to rise at a quickening pace. As the concentration of carbon dioxide and increased, temperatures have climbed. "Ten of the hottest years on record occurred in the last 15 years," Rustad said, "and the hottest year ever was 2104."

Rustad recalled that the changing climate began to catch the attention of scientists in the late 1950s and 30 years later the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was convened. The first report of the IPCC, issued in 1990, she described as "wishy-washy" but its fourth report found that "warming of the climate system is unequivocal" and "very likely" is the result of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most recent report of the IPCC concluded that "human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since 1950" and warned that longer the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is delayed, the greater the costs will be. "The language of the IPCC has changed dramatically," Rustad remarked.

Warming temperatures, Rustad said, have hastened the melting of sea ice leading to rising sea levels. At the same time, the warming world has been marked by changing patterns of precipitation levels as well as altered the patterns of precipitation and greater frequency of what she called "extreme events," like heavy precipitation, severe droughts and heat waves.

Rustad said that the changing climate has left its marks at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. Established in 1956 , the 8,000 wooded acres riven by Hubbard Brook was originally a venue for studying the impact of acid rain, but since 1996 has been a center for measuring the effects of climate change on the northern forest. She said that since 1955 the average annual temperature in the forest has risen 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, more than the global average. She noted that temperatures have risen relatively more at the higher latitudes. Precipitation has increased 12 percent, with more rainfall than snowfall. Both the amount of snowfall and days of snow cover have dropped 25 percent.

Rustad explained that because of the diminished snow cover, the soil freezes to greater depths in the winter, which impairs the capacity of the roots of trees and shrubs to absorb nutrients, chiefly nitrates and phosphorus, stunting the growth of their root systems. Instead, elevated levels of nitrates and phosphorus leach into ground and surface water. At Hubbard Brook, Rustad said, the ice storm of 1998 was simulated by spraying trees with a fire hose amid freezing temperatures. The experiment confirmed that when the capacity of trees to absorb nutrients is impaired, elevated levels of nitrates and phosphorus are found in nearby surface water after the icing event.

Rustad herself is interested in extreme events, which she defined as precipitation of two inches or more. She said that as the climate has changed wet and dry periods, which once alternated, have begun to coincide with greater frequency. "We have drier soils in a wetter world," she remarked. Likewise, warmer temperatures prompts trees to leaf and flowers to blossom earlier in the spring while a late spring frost, which counts as an extreme event, may destroy a significant share of the forest canopy opened by the early warming.

Asked what aspect of climate change should most concern municipal Planning Departments in New Hampshire, without hesitation Rustad replied "heavy precipitation".

Although Rustad acknowledged some have questioned the findings and ignored the warnings of the scientific community, she said that more and more people, especially those whose livelihoods and life styles are affected, understand from experience that the climate is changing. "People are beginning to care," she said.